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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
06/05/2016
Estimates
FOREIGN AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO
Tourism Australia

Tourism Australia

[20:20]

CHAIR: Do you have an opening statement by any chance, Mr Gosper?

Mr Gosper : No, I do not.

CHAIR: Mr O'Sullivan?

Mr O'Sullivan : No.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Minister, will the minister for tourism be joining us tonight?

Senator McGrath: No, you have got me till the close. What is wrong with that?

Senator CAROL BROWN: Will you be able to actually answer questions that I have for the minister?

Senator McGrath: I will probably have to take them on notice.

Senator WONG: Precisely!

Senator CAROL BROWN: That is the problem.

Senator WONG: Ministers should attend their own portfolio estimates, Senator McGrath.

Senator McGrath: I am sorry that you have got me this evening.

Senator WONG: It is not that I do not like you or that Senator Brown does not like you, although occasionally we do not! It is an accountability mechanism that ministers in their own portfolio should attend the budget estimates.

Senator McGrath: Let's hear what questions you have.

Senator WONG: Well, you cannot answer some questions about what decisions he makes.

Senator McGrath: I can take it on notice.

Senator WONG: Yes, and we all know that game!

Senator CAROL BROWN: My understanding is the committee was only advised late this evening that Senator Colbeck would not be appearing.

Senator McGrath: I cannot answer where Senator Colbeck is, but you have got me here.

Senator CAROL BROWN: He has been here at a previous estimates. I was expecting him to be here, fulfilling his role as the minister for tourism, but we will continue. I have some questions for Austrade about the Tourism Demand Driver Infrastructure Fund. You told me when I asked questions the last time that the fund was announced in 2014 and that, as at almost two years later, 82 per cent of the TDDI funding was still unallocated. Can someone update me on those figures?

Mr Gosper : I will ask Mr Boyer to answer that.

Mr Boyer : To this point, including 2015-16, we have seen $14.1 million of the $43.1 million allocated.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Can you please repeat that?

Mr Boyer : There has been $14.1 million of the $43.1 million allocated over four years.

Senator CAROL BROWN: That is up till when?

Mr Boyer : The end of 2015-16.

Senator CAROL BROWN: How much of what has been allocated has actually been paid?

Mr Boyer : The final payments for 2015-16 have not yet been made, but they will be made this month.

Senator CAROL BROWN: This month?

Mr Boyer : Yes.

Senator CAROL BROWN: What does final payment mean?

Mr Boyer : Several projects will have started and had their first payments made, or several payments will have been made to the relevant state or territory government. The final payments for the financial year will be made at the end of May.

Senator CAROL BROWN: How many projects have been approved?

Mr Boyer : In the 2014-15 financial year, there were 33 projects approved. In the 2015-16 financial year, there were 69 projects approved.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Last time, it was up to 49. It is now 69?

Mr Boyer : Yes, in this financial year.

Senator CAROL BROWN: How many did you say were going to have final payments made this month?

Mr Boyer : I do not have that level of detail, I am sorry. A number of them will have, because there will be the final payment of the financial year.

Senator CAROL BROWN: How many projects have been approved but not announced?

Mr Boyer : I do not have that level of detail. I know that we have got commitments into 2016-17 for some projects. I am not sure how many of them have been announced or not announced. I can take the numbers on notice but not the announcements, of course.

Senator CAROL BROWN: What happens to the unallocated funds during the caretaker period? Senator McGrath could probably help me there. If there is to be an election called shortly, what happens to the unallocated funds?

Mr Boyer : The decision has been taken to shift relevant funds into future financial years.

Senator CAROL BROWN: With the projects that have been approved but not announced, or the payments are to be made this month, can the government announce those projects during the caretaker period?

Mr Boyer : I should be clear: the payments that will be made this month will be for projects that will have almost certainly already been announced. They will be the final payments of those projects.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Can the projects that are approved but not announced be announced through the caretaker period?

Mr Boyer : I believe so. I am not an expert on caretaker convention. I believe that the requirement is that the decision has been taken.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Does anyone else know?

Mr Gosper : Yes, I think Mr Boyer is correct, but, in any event, we would of course always consult with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to make sure that we were acting in accordance with the caretaker convention.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Do you know how much the projects were that have been approved but not announced?

Senator McGrath: We can take that on notice.

Mr Boyer : I do not have that level of detail.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I will just wait till I hear the announcements and add it up. Austrade have said that the project details will be publically available on the Treasury website. Are they available on the Treasury website—the Federal Financial Relations website?

Mr Boyer : Yes, I believe so. For every project that is approved, there would be a media release that is put out, usually jointly between the Minister for Tourism and International Education and his state or territory counterpart.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I do not mean just the media release but—

Mr Boyer : The financial details.

Senator CAROL BROWN: the project details.

Mr Boyer : Yes, they should be available on the Treasury website.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I think I might know what the website address is, but if you could take that on notice, because I am having difficulty finding it.

Mr Boyer : Certainly, no problem.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I have some questions on the backpacker tax. Who is in charge of the review that Minister Colbeck announced?

Mr Gosper : Austrade has been undertaking that exercise.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Thank you. So that is internal officers? There are no consultants?

Mr Gosper : No, not that I know. We were asked to undertake a review, working to Minister Colbeck, who was also assisted by the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister. We undertook consultations with industry groups. We undertook an IDC with relevant agencies as part of that process. I am not aware that we used any consultants. I will ask Mr Boyer to confirm that.

Mr Boyer : No, we used no consultants.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Is the review completed?

Mr Gosper : Yes, we have completed a review and provided advice to government.

Senator CAROL BROWN: When did that happen?

Mr Gosper : It happened on 6 April 2016.

Senator CAROL BROWN: In terms of your consultation, can you give me a list of who, outside the department, you actually consulted with?

Mr Gosper : We undertook two industry consultations with tourism and agriculture stakeholders on 21 March and 19 April, respectively, and an interdepartmental committee involving 12 agencies.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Who were people invited to those?

Mr Gosper : I do not have that detail here. We can take that on notice and provided it to you.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Thank you, I appreciate that. I was going to ask the minister when he was going to announce additional measures, but I do not see—

Senator McGrath: What do you mean by additional measures?

Senator CAROL BROWN: When the minister announced the review back in March, he said that they were looking at a different approach in terms of the backpacker tax.

Senator McGrath: My understanding is that the Treasurer said it was still a live issue and the Deputy Prime Minister has said that we are working towards a solution.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Did the review recommended a solution?

Senator McGrath: I am not aware of that. I will have to take that on notice.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Mr Gosper?

Mr Gosper : The review was to look at options for alternative budget neutral arrangements to the tax treatment, and we have given advice to government.

Senator CAROL BROWN: You have provided options?

Mr Gosper : We have given advice to government.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Obviously they did not like those options. So you cannot tell me when this issue may be fixed then, other than that the Treasurer—I think it was the Treasurer—announced a delay in the current policy.

Senator McGrath: I am not able to give you a fixed time frame.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Obviously, there is quite a lot of disquiet even in the government's ranks about how this issue is playing out in the community.

Senator McGrath: That is your opinion.

Senator CAROL BROWN: And Senator Heffernan and Mr Entsch. I wish I had brought my list.

Senator McGrath: Why don't you take it on notice?

Mr Gosper : Okay.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Obviously the Treasurer is too, because he has delayed your actual government policy. But anyway, I appreciate you taking on notice, minister. I will move on. I have some questions about the survey of tourist accommodation.

Mr Boyer : Yes, I can probably help you with that.

Senator CAROL BROWN: What are the arrangements for the survey? Has there been a permanent solution found?

Mr Boyer : No permanent solution has been found yet, but we have agreed with our state and territory counterparts to fund the survey for 2015-16—this financial year.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So what about next financial year?

Mr Boyer : We have discussions that need to be had between the Commonwealth and our state and territory colleagues through the Australian Standing Committee on Tourism and then through tourism ministers' meeting about whether there is the potential to find another solution. We are looking a range of options, and one of them might be testing the market to see whether the private sector can provide a solution.

Senator CAROL BROWN: When do you have to come to an agreement on what you might do?

Mr Boyer : Obviously, if we want the survey to continue in terms of providing year-on-year data, we would need to come to a conclusion probably in the early parts of 2017, in terms of working out what a forward solution might look like.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Thank you. I have a few questions for Tourism Australia. I particularly want to ask questions about Tasmania. Are you able to provide me with the most recent tourist arrival figures for Tasmania?

Mr O'Sullivan : To December 2015, Tasmania had a spend of $351 million in visitor expenditure by international visitors. That was a 34 per cent increase, year on year, on spend in that particular state, and that was generated by 212,000 international visitors, which was an increase by about 20 per cent from the previous year.

Senator CAROL BROWN: How many of those arrivals were into the Hobart airport?

Mr O'Sullivan : Senator, I will have to take that on notice and come back to you on that one. I do not have those figures to hand.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Okay. Has there been any concern about the ability of the infrastructure around Hobart airport to cope with the increased visitor numbers?

Mr O'Sullivan : Not from our discussions with airlines particularly. If you look at domestic aviation into Tasmania, it has been one of the growth states, in terms of capacity into Hobart, Launceston and Devonport. Those have certainly been the discussions that we have had with domestic airlines.

Senator CAROL BROWN: My last question is: could you provide me with an update on the aquatic and coastal campaign?

Mr O'Sullivan : Yes, certainly. We are very happy to do that. The aquatic and coastal campaign was launched on 25 January in New York City. As part of that launch, we have then pushed out into the United States over the last two months with a concerted campaign with our trade partners and also with our aviation partners in that market. It is not surprising to see that in the latest ABS figures—that were announced only today—in the month of March we have seen a 16 per cent increase in the number of arrivals from the United States. We have also seen about a 70 per cent increase in the numbers of referrals from australia.com onto industry pages, which is generally a reflection of interest by consumers in that particular market. During Australia Week in China, Minister Colbeck along with a number of his state and territory tourism ministerial colleagues launched the campaign in China. That campaign is now active through a number of channels, being outdoor media, digital media and working with the trade in market. In Hong Kong, this week we have also just launched the campaign, and that has been taking our virtual technology—360 degree technology—into public areas of Hong Kong, but also through and with our travel agency partners in those markets.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Are you able to provide any information about the impact on visitor numbers at a state and territory level? Do you keep that sort of data?

Mr O'Sullivan : That comes out as part of the IVS, so we will be able to track that when we get the relevant quarterly results that take into consideration the campaign duration during 2016.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So you do keep it, and we will be able to get it.

Mr O'Sullivan : We will track them as part of the IVS process, yes.

Senator CAROL BROWN: The only other question I have was for the minister. I do not think the minister at the table will be able to answer it, so I will put it on notice. I was going to ask the minister about unanswered questions.

Senator McGrath: I think on notice would be best.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I think so. I will just say that, according to the minister himself, he received the responses from Tourism Australia on 30 March but they were only forwarded to the committee on the 2nd. I will ask the minister on notice about that delay.

CHAIR: That concludes the committee's examination of the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio. Thank you, Minister, and officers for your attendance. Thank you to Hansard, broadcasting and secretariat staff. I remind my colleagues that written answers to questions on notice should be provided by Wednesday, 11 May. The hearing is now adjourned.

Committee adjourned at 20:40